The Academy for Large Scale Change is giving clinicians the skills they need to influence others and improve the quality of patient care in the NHS, writes David Levy

I am currently a member of the Academy for Large Scale Change. This is a group of six to eight senior managers and clinicians from each of the 10 strategic health authorities, who meet regularly at events facilitated by the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement.

The intention is to give participants the knowledge and tools to deliver large scale change as set out in Lord Darzi’s next stage review. We are fortunate to have world class facilitators and speakers to help us understand how we can implement such a radical change programme in the NHS. The programme comes with the blessing of all SHA chief executives and NHS chief executive David Nicholson.

Patient stories

Recently we met and discussed how we can influence others. The focus was on helping others understand what change is expected of them and the meaning behind it. Stories are a powerful way of sharing problems and solutions. Caroline Webb from McKinsey led a four-hour workshop on this.

Many of us have seen how a patient’s experience can have a dramatic impact on encouraging others to change the way they work, their attitudes and beliefs. We spent time considering two-minute stories we had prepared, understanding they need a structure, need to grab the attention of others quickly and need to inspire change. Finally, at the end of the story, it was important to address any questions and to explain the impact the story would have on the way we work and our values.

It was an exhausting session. It gave many of us new insight and left some emotionally stretched.

Leadership

So what have these stories to do with leadership?

If we are going to influence others, sometimes we can use logic, sometimes we need to use other means. The shift in NHS culture to quality - safe, effective and efficient services - will only be achieved by senior managers and clinicians using both logic and stories to influence and inform NHS staff.

SHA chief executives have prepared their stories; David Nicholson has his. What is your story? You will need more than one, possibly a bank of many, with a favourite. If you have the chance to go to an event to learn how to develop them - go!

Changing beliefs

Not long after this session, I was at an end of life care conference in Sheffield. National cancer director Mike Richards was there. The audience was mixed, with primary and secondary care clinicians and commissioners in the audience.

Mike Richards presented an overview of the end of life care strategy. I then addressed the audience and told them some patient stories. Stories I had used elsewhere before. I know they are powerful and encourage a change in beliefs, a desire to see change and an improvement in services. The next speaker even commented on the shift in his beliefs during the talk.

At the end of the session, Mike Richards asked me for the slides with the stories.